On the 30th, I got the family message that reminded me that I had not reached back out to them. My sister wrote, “Just so you know there’s a whole group of Hoosier family and friends praying for your safety. Keep me or mom posted even with a quick text she says.” Things were too busy to reach out to them, but their relationship with me in some ways was making it as if they were partially present with me in New York. The next day, I did call my sister. Her post of “My daughter was really happy to talk to uncle Christopher L Smith tonight” did not key in to what was going on but began to tell a whole group of people who know where I live that I was okay. I made this more concrete by saying, “As was he. Good to have thoughts and prayers to those affected more severely by the storm here in NYC and throughout the large affected area.” However, this also began the need for daily calls to either my mother or my sister to give them updates on how things were going. I knew that this was something that was really important for them, especially when things continued to get worse in the area and another storm (Athena – making history in being the first named winter storm) threatened. On the other hand, it was hard at times to relate what was really going on. My relationship to Sandy-Athena was so different than theirs and in realizing that their experience was through our relationship, I also realized that my first person experience was so different than that of some of my fellow New Yorkers. I was in a situation where I could consider volunteering at a shelter to be in heat for the night when there were those there who had no other place to go.
Thinking back to 9/11, I also realized that there would be people out there who I would never think about who would be worried about how I was doing. Then it struck me – why not use our connected world to get the word out to these people too. For me, these are people that I do not regularly connect with and who might only be considered acquaintances. Yet, for many of them, I am the call that they have that connects them to this disastrous event. The relationship is far from symmetric. So I write, “Just an update from the metro New York area – I’m doing well – thanks for all who have inquired, thoughts, prayers, etc. The church is well. The area will take a while to get back to normal but a lot of good has been seen already.” The response was a brief flood of greetings – including from people I would never have thought to reach out to.
As time goes along, people are pulled away from being connected to the unfolding saga in the greater New York area but others are drawn into a deeper relationship with what is going on. This yields current dichotomies such as: